The most memorable night in Nigerian Hip-Hop: When MI Abaga Dropped 'MI2: The Movie'
10 years later, the album remains one of the most important bodies of work, not just for Jude Abaga but for Nigerian music and Afrobeats.
25-year-old me woke up in my parents home, located in Ipaja, Lagos, where I had lived for the past 16 years, sharing a bed with my young brother. He was at the University of Benin at the time, and I was happy to have the room to myself.
Just like any other morning, I freshened up and headed for the door, already planning my day - studio, cafe, studio, home, cafe for night browsing.
I worked at a small studio located in Abesan Estate, a walking distance from my house. The studio belonged to Edward Awani, known to everyone as Tycoon - a local rapper who had seen some popularity in the early days of Hip-Hop in Nigeria. The legendary Bayo Omisore at HipHopWorld Magazine, (Nigeria’s version of The Source Magazine) had even featured and reviewed his debut album NEW ERA back in 2005.
Tycoon’s studio was regularly booked by local artistes from the Ipaja/Merian/Egbeda axis. He had mixed my first and only mixtape Tales of a Hustla back in 2006. Four years later, our relationship had grown from OG-rookie to a more matured friendship.
I worked in his studio as a recording engineer and assisted with the burning of multiple CDs for music artistes and video producers.
On this day, we along with some other upcoming artistes had been talking about Nigerian Hip-Hop and how it had grown from its boom-bap era into a more appealing genre amongst the Nigerian music audience. MI, Naeto, Illbliss and Dagrin’s names came up the most.
M.I Abaga’s second album was dropping that night, and it was a topic amongst the boys at the studio. What did M.I have in store for us this time around? Would the album be soft like his debut Talk About It? Would he respond to Iceberg Slim’s jab on the Bronx, NY native’s diss song “Am I better”?
I got a text from Faz…
Obinna Ifechi-Fred aka Fazillion was in East London at the time. It was strange for him to text me, he’d usually send me a Skype message. He had probably figured out why I wasn’t responding. I was broke and had run out of data.
“Bro, M.I just gave us the rights to sell the album on the website," his text read.
My eyes lit up.
You see, Faz and M.I had recently settled their differences. Faz, best described as a real-life walking encyclopedia of Nigerian music and the Short Black Boy had issues from their past to straighten out, and they had recently chopped it up. But it was still a shock to me that M could allow us to sell his album on our website.
Our website was called NigerianHipHop.net. Now defunct, NHH was a one-stop platform that carefully curated Hip-Hop music, released by Nigerians from anywhere in the world. We also paid a lot of attention to what the average music listener will describe as 'the underground.'
It was founded by a Nigerian, Huey, based in Europe and run by himself alongside Faz, Shade (who stayed in the US) and myself.
I did a lot of groundwork for the website, being the only one in Nigeria at the time. We launched our store 9 months earlier, and it was my responsibility to get as many Hip-Hop artistes to sell their albums on the website.
I had closed deals with rappers Terry Tha Rapman, Overdose, Vector and producers Jamix as well as Tha Suspect.
Selling M.I Abaga’s highly anticipated second album would do a lot of good for NHH in terms of exposure and would also one-up NotjustOK.com, Nigeria’s biggest music blog at the time.
So we got the rights to sell the album, but there was one problem, M.I (who is notoriously known for ghosting conversations) was not responding to Faz’s messages after he confirmed NHH could sell the album - hey, I can’t blame him, he had an album dropping that night. But in other to sell an album, you need to have an actual copy of the album. NJO would have it available at midnight, and all the traffic would go their way.
At 4 PM, with no word from Mr Abaga, I told Faz I’d be heading to Alaba International Market to get the album. You see, back in 2010, physical sales of albums were still a thing, and Alaba, located in Ojo, Lagos was the mecca of commercialization music.
One of the biggest music CD distributors, Mr Abhu, CEO of ABHU Ventures is rumoured to have slept over at M.I’s place in Palmgroove just to safeguard and secure the master copy of the album and take it to Alaba to cut copies that would go to every city in the country that night.
I got to Alaba by 6 PM and didn’t even need to get the ABHU Ventures store as the album had already hit the shelves in Alaba. It was selling fast! I bought a copy for N45 Naira (don’t even bother converting to Dollars) and headed back to Ipaja. I was super excited; first to listen to the album first then to upload to Faz who would set it up in the store for sale that night.
ALSO READ: MI Abaga - Judah EP [Review]
I got home at 10 PM, quietly 'borrowed' my sister’s laptop at the time and headed to the cyber cafe. I ripped the CD with my iTunes player at the highest quality MP3 bitrate, 320 kbps and sent to Faz.
The time was 11 PM, we put out the album; Twitter Nigeria went nuts, insane. RTs went through the roof. There was pandemonium everywhere. The numbers at the backend were doubling in real-time. People were buying the album and literally tweeting the lyrics seconds later.
I was proud of Nigerian Hip-Hop that night and will always look at it as the first moment Nigerian music truly trended organically, worldwide through social media.
NotjustOK who had a huge countdown timer with one hour left had to scrap their plans and release the album almost immediately. I honestly relished the chaos we caused them that night (love you Demola and Ovie)!
MI2:The Movie is the best Hip-Hop album to released in 2010. You give it even more accolades when you realise the other Hip-Hop artistes that released albums that year include Modenine, Jesse Jagz, Terry Tha Rapman, Overdose, Sauce Kid, Ikechukwu, 2Shotz, Vector, Cartier, Pherowshuz, and A-Q.
10 years later, the album remains one of the most important bodies of work, not just for Jude Abaga but for Nigerian music and Afrobeats. The message, composition, production and effrontery to blend so many local sounds with Hip-Hop and still make it appeal to both ends of the genre’s spectrum should be studied in schools for decades.
On December 29, 2010, I published a review of 'MI2: The Movie' on NigerianHipHop.net, but it now resides on Nigeriansounds.com. You can read it below;
ALBUM REVIEW By Osagie Alonge
ALBUM: MI2 The Movie
RECORD LABEL: Chocolate City Records
DISTRIBUTED BY: AHBU Ventures
Jude Abaga appeared on the music scene a couple of years ago with a single called 'Crowd Mentality' which was filled with conscious but witty lyrics. A few years passed by then he released his debut album, Talk about It which pretty much towed along with the style of his first single.
The success of the album paved way for a new style of Nigerian rap; easy on the words heavy on the style and delivery, a formula which M.I quickly found out to woo his audience to a fixed state.
So, after a successful album, numerous cameos, multiple awards and even a BET feature and nomination, why not stick to a winning formula? At best one could even increase the dose or better yet alter it to produce a more potent force since the public ear will take anything from the rising champ.
Hence, MI2 The Movie: A spin off of the popular Tom Cruise movie ‘Mission Impossible’ which perfectly fits into M.I’s musical context. And so, the album concept is that M.I plays a character of the protagonist and every artiste feature is a co-starring role. Let’s go in…..
From an intro which best befits the concept but is rather too long, M.I establishes his character which will go all the way throughout the album.
Starting with a very energetic tune with new R&B kid Brymo 'Action film' has got you swaying from side to side as M.I declares his accomplishments and grand return with lines like “back with a banger/for the hood for the streets for the zanga/the return of the microphone handler/came back to set a new standard," his delivery stays intact as Brymo laces the hook with laudable vocals.
M.I moves onto something more subtle with 'Slow Down,' characterizing and beautifying a faceless female.
As the album goes on, M.I slows down the tempo with songs like 'Number 1' where he brilliantly blends his hip-hop style with the highlife genre sung by Flavour. Also on 'Anybody' M.I calls on Timaya and Loose kaynon to air out their views on the ‘hate’ the ‘fame’ acquires.
With lines like “some people love me, some people jealous me/some people wanna put poison in my Hennessey…./…I’m just spitting my flow, I’m just trying to grow/life is bi-sexual, anybody can blow”, coupled with excellent verse from Timaya and even Loose, it’s quite clear that the Short Black Boy isn’t entirely happy with the way he has been treated ever since his new found fame arrived.
This story continues with 'Nobody' a duet with Tuface Idibia where M.I tows the same line of the previous track overemphasizing the subject but Tuface’s vocals make it a must listen.
They say if a goat is pushed to the wall and has nowhere to go, it’ll fight back. That’s what M.I does immediately as he goes in hard on 'Beef' but instead of boisterously dropping lines, M.I playfully takes down any opponent that has been tearing scratches at him, dropping lines like “See them see them they wanna beef me/ now that they see BET on my CV/now that I’m frequently on the TV…”
Finally, he responds to his ‘frenemy’ Iceberg Slim while ridiculing his ever present pest, Kelly Hansome when he spits “…they know using my name will help them sell some, so Iceberg it’s alright you’re welcome/but I’m not In their league help me tell them, the Super Eagles don’t play against the Falcons/ see wor-wor pikin (Ugly child) dey form handsome, Kelechukwu clap for yourself welldone”.
The album takes on another path as 'Wild Wild West' portrays the ills and sudden unrest in Judo’s hometown Jos. 'Craze' also depicts the current deforming situation of the country, as M.I relates his disgust for corruption. The song would have done better on a subtle beat and less incoherent chorus.
But M.I bounces back with the very melodious 'My Head My Belle' still sticking to the everyday norms of the society, a high point of the album this is.
All through the album, M.I makes it clear that he’s sticking to his musical side with use of local drum loop patterns and congas mixed with melodious strings inviting other genres into the hip-hop theme. A song like 'Epic' perfectly describes this as the crescendo increases while the song moves steadily as Praise ups the tempo with blissful chants.
Moving on, 'Undisputed' shows the Short Black Boy show off his self acclaimed title, describing his present reign as untouchable. “One Naira” without a doubt brings a softer side of M.I as he assures a companion with lines like “hey princess, I’m so into you/ ‘cause you see pass what my revenue is/ and love me for me, clever you/leave you that is something I’ll never do…” while Waje brilliantly croons out the chorus.
Conclusively, M.I might not be the most lyrically dexterous Nigerian rapper out there; the words might not always come strong (with lines like “…cause I’m Championship like Inter”, “i’ll follow you like three blind mices”) but the strong attitude and musical concept of MI2 stays intact from start to finish.
ALBUM RATING: 4/5
You can follow;
Osagie Alonge on at platforms @osagz
MI Abaga on all platforms @MI_Abaga
Osagie Alonge's podcast on all platforms @amusicintime
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